Though the terms hospital medicine and hospitalist are not new to medical professionals, the terms may be new to patients receiving care at Lane Regional Medical Center in Zachary.

A hospitalist is a physician who specializes in the care of patients during their stay in the hospital.

“It’s becoming a new normal,” said Dr. Will Freeman, who has worked as an emergency room physician since completing his residency in 1996.

“Since hospitalists do not see patients outside of the hospital, they’re able to give their complete attention to patients without having to come in early to do rounds, go to their office, slip back at lunch or not come back until late that evening. We’re there for patients and their families all the time.”

A team of eight hospitalists — Matthew Adasofunjo, Samer Bakhos, Kenneth Dunaway, Kyle Hargroder, Heather Hill, David Longmire, Cris Mandry and Freeman — make up the Hospital Medicine Group at Lane, working seven days on followed by seven days off.

Hospitalists range from board certified physicians in internal medicine, family practice or other specialties to physician assistants and nurse practitioners. A primary care physician will call the hospitalist to inform him or her about a patient’s condition, then send the records to the hospital as needed for the illness or condition being treated, similar to what a physician does now when referring a patient to a specialist, Freeman said.

While in the hospital, a patient’s care is supervised by the hospitalist, who may discuss the patient’s care further with the primary care doctor.

Upon discharge, the hospitalist will contact the primary physician to discuss a patient’s treatment needs, help arrange follow-up care, prescribe medications and send hospital records back to the primary care physician’s office, Freeman explained.

“Once back home, the patient will continue seeing their primary care physician for continuing treatment and care. If a patient does not have a primary care doc, the hospitalist can refer one,” Freeman said.

A growing population, people living longer, more complex medical issues in patients and the demands from Medicaid and Medicare in terms of documenting detailed patient information are all reasons lending themselves to the growing need for hospital medicine programs, Freeman said.

In addition to working hand in hand with primary care physicians regarding patient care, hospitalists know the procedures and layout of the hospital.

“The hospital is our ‘office,’ and we’re available to answer questions for family members and patients throughout their entire hospital stay,” Freeman said. “We’re not trying to take the place of a primary care physician. We’re here to free them up so they can focus on their clinic and patients needing in-office care. Our goals work in conjunction with those of the primary care physician and hospital so that we’re all working together to provide better medical care and service to patients, whether it’s in the hospital or at a physician’s clinic or office.”